MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Department of Tourism and Archeology has renovated a disused historic underpass of a main thoroughfare near here as a fascinating tourist site which will be open to the public later this month.
A tunnel about 250 feet long and its surroundings near Ambore, about five kilometers south of here, will provide a marvelous view and atmosphere for visitors heading to or returning from the state capital Muzaffarabad via Kohala, officials said.
“I think this is the best use of this archaeological site,” said Rashid Hanif, head of the tourism and archeology department, of the tunnel dug into a mountain during the construction of [initially unmetalled] road from Rawalpindi to Srinagar in the late 19th century.
The road was initially used by ox and horse carts, while cars and buses started crossing it much later, probably in the second decade of the 20th century.
A tunnel was dug into a mountain during the construction of a road from Rawalpindi to Srinagar in the late 19th century, an official says
A small bridge over a stream flowing into the nearby Jhelum River would bring traffic to the mouth of the tunnel from its northern side where the AJK capital is located.
According to engineer Tariq Mahmood Shola, former AJK Secretary for Communication and Works (C&W), the roof of the tunnel was chiseled out in 1973 to add headroom for vehicles while an alternative route was dug on its outer side in 1975 to pave the way. for two-way traffic.
In 2003 the alternate route was widened and connected to a new large bridge and all traffic on both sides was diverted there, rendering the tunnel and small bridge unused. Ironically, following the 2005 earthquake, the abandoned tunnel and the space on its northern side, including the small bridge, were seized by some locals setting up a “block factory” there.
They were, however, expelled in June 2014 in a grand operation under the PPP government with the personal interest and involvement of then Finance Minister Chaudhry Latif Akbar.
Mr. Hanif said Dawn that the idea of conserving and developing the archaeological site into a tourist spot was conceived by his department about three years ago.
Implementation of the project started in January 2020 at a cost of Rs 10.42 million and is expected to be completed by the end of the current month, he said.
He said the tunnel was not only concreted from the inside, but also fitted with lighting. The open space and the small bridge were tiled and fenced and two gazebos were erected on it, he added.
He said a sculpture of a horse-drawn carriage, known locally as a tonga, was placed in the middle of the tiled space as a reminder of this long-abandoned mode of transport.
The tourism department will seek offers from the private sector to open a bistro there to provide quality refreshments to visitors, Hanif said, adding that the department also plans to develop a small pond by the creek.
Mansoor Qadir Dar, who was transferred from the post of tourism secretary last week, told Dawn that several recreational and tourist sites along the main arteries in different areas were being developed to amuse and facilitate visitors from all over the world. country.
A recreation spot along a waterfall at Nauseri en route to Neelum Valley was ready for the inauguration while the area around Chamb waterfall of Jhelum Valley district had also been developed for the comfort of tourists, he said.
Posted in Dawn, June 13, 2022